MOSCOW – Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a Russia-brokered cease-fire in Nagorno-Karabakh starting Saturday, but immediately accused each other of derailing the deal intended to end the worst outbreak of hostilities in the separatist region in more than a quarter-century.
The two sides traded blame for breaking the truce that took effect at noon (0800 GMT) with new attacks, and Azerbaijan's top diplomat said the truce never entered force.
The cease-fire announcement came overnight after 10 hours of talks in Moscow sponsored by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The deal stipulated that the cease-fire should pave the way for talks on settling the conflict.
If the truce holds, it would mark a major diplomatic coup for Russia, which has a security pact with Armenia but also cultivated warm ties with Azerbaijan. But the agreement was immediately challenged by mutual claims of violations.
Minutes after the truce took force, the Armenian military accused Azerbaijan of shelling the area near the town of Kapan in southeastern Armenia, killing one civilian. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry rejected the Armenian accusations as a “provocation.”
The Azerbaijani military, in turn, accused Armenia of striking the Terter and Agdam regions of Azerbaijan with missiles and then attempting to launch offensives in the Agdere-Terter and the Fizuli-Jabrail areas. Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov charged that “conditions for implementing the humanitarian cease-fire are currently missing” amid the continuing Armenian shelling.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry denied any truce violations by the Armenian forces and said in the evening that the truce was “largely holding” despite Azerbaijani “provocations,” to which the Armenian troops responded in kind.
The latest outburst of fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces began Sept. 27 and left hundreds of people dead in the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh since a separatist war there ended in 1994. The region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia.